An array of patterns with flamboyant colours have adorned the houses. Rich aroma of Aresalu is wafting into the streets. Bylanes are reverberating with the singing of Haridasus and kites of various desgins are soaring high in the sky.
The enitre State is ready for the celebration of rich Telugu culture and traditions. It is Sankranti.
Why it is celebrated?
Makar Sankranti has a uniqueness to itself. Unlike other Hindu festivals which follow the lunar calendar, Makar Sankranti is probably among the very few festivals that is observed as per the solar calendar.
This makes it the only festival to fall on a fixed date every year - January 14.
The mode of celebrations has an agararian overtone and in Andhra Pradesh, being a major agrarian economy, it is arguably called the mother of all festivals. The harvest festival is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh.
Day 1 - Bhogi
The festival starts with the Bhogi, a day preceding Sankranti. People shed old and derelict things and welcome the new symbolising transformation.
Before the day break, bonfires (Bhogi Mantalu) are lighted with logs of wood, other solid fuels and wooden furniture that are no longer in use.
It stands for realisation, transformation and purification of the self by a change for the better.
Day-2 Makar Sankranti
On Makar Sankranti, the second day of the festival, people wear new clothes, offer prayers to God, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have died. Beautiful and ornate drawings and patterns are drawn on the ground with chalk or flour (Rangoli or Muggulu) in front of houses and these drawings are decorated with flowers, colours and small, hand-pressed piles of cow dung, called Gobbemmalu.
On the third day, Kanuma is celebrated. Kanuma is very dear to the farmer community as it is the day on which they showcase their gratitude to cattle which are the symbolic indication of prosperity.
The animals are given a bath and adorned with ornaments. Girls feed animals, birds and fish as a symbol of sharing.
To ensure the happy gathering of the family members, any travel on this day is considered inappropriate.
The fourth day is called Mukkanuma which is popular among the non-vegetarians. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the natural elements like soil, rain and fire for blessing them with good harvest. People in Coastal Andhra do not eat any meat (or fish) during the first three days of the festival and do so only on the day of Mukkanuma and the day following Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives followed by fun activities, which include cockfights, bullock race and kite flying.
The young damsels come together and put forward cute little dolls coupled with other things and narrate a scenario. Although this tradition of Bommala Koluvu is slowly fading, people of all ages love to see the display as friends and relatives are invited to have a look. In the olden days, local handicrafts like Kondapalli and Etikoppaka toys and dolls were showcased but now collection of handicrafts across the country are being displayed.
Dressed in an attire unique to the art form, with an ‘Akshaya Patra’ on the head, a ‘Tambura’, and ‘Chidatalu’, the Haridasu is the one who ushers in the festive spirit associated with Sankranti. Haridasu goes from house to house and ask for bhiksha. Haridasu says “Krishnarpanam” when he receives offerings from people.
For this festival, most of the families prepare Chakinalu, Nuvvula Appalu, Gare Appalu, Madugulu (Jantikalu), Bellam Appalu, Kudumulu, Ariselu and Dappalam (a dish made with pumpkin and other vegetables) to make an offering to God. The sweet delicacies include a sweet porridge like dish known as Chakkara Pongal which is made with rice, jaggery and mung lentils, flavoured with cardamoms and dry fruits. Symbolic of joy and festivity, Poornam Boorelu is the most popular sweet prepared in the homes of Andhrites.
Cockfight is a tradition that has been followed by the people. It is a bloodsport between two roosters held in a ring called cockpit. It is the favourite sport of people living in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh.
The fights are organised in sprawling fields with thousands watching. Three or four inch blades are attached to the cocks’ legs. Knockout fights to the death are widely practiced in the State.
Different celebrations of Sankranti across India
India is known for ‘Unity in Diversity’ and at the same time India is known as the ‘Land of Festivals’. Yes, New Year has set in and has brought with it the season of celebrations. Although the names of the festival differ, people all over India rejoice and celebrate the festival time, the preparations of which have already started a week ago. So, here is a look on how people in different States mark the celebrations.
PONGAL: One of the most important festivals of the year, Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu to mark the harvest festival. Joy and jubilation grip all who celebrate the occasion of Pongal.
SANKRANTI- Andhrites celebrate this four-day festival with pomp and gaiety as holiday fever prevails all through the week. Starting off with Bhogi and followed by Sankranti, Kanuma and Makunama, everyday is a celebration for the Andhrites from dressing, scrumptious food and worshipping the Lord. People worship Lord Indra - the God of Clouds and Rains on this auspicious day.
UTTARAYAN- Colourful kites dot the sky from dawn to dusk and the spirit of competition is seen among people of all ages. Yes, it is Uttarayan, the kite festival that is celebrated in Gujarat to greet the onset of summer.
LOHRI- Marking the end of winter and indulging in the festive spirit, Punjabis celebrate Lohri to welcome the spring season. From tapping their feet to the energetic beating of the dhol to the delicious food, people make every minute of the day worthwhile while celebrating the festival.
MAKAR SANKRANTI- In Karnataka, this festival is celebrated as a day of goodwill and friendship. Yello bella, a special kind of sweet is exchanged amongst people to make peaceful bond of friendship. The spirit of festive fervour is seen among people of all ages.
BIHU- While the feasting lasts for a week, the Assam celebration of Sankranti is called as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu to mark the end of harvesting. The two-day festival is celebrated with traditional fervour by the Assamese community.